Welcome to Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month 2016: The Year of Success!
March is here! Those of you who have been involved in colon cancer screening efforts for a while will agree that each March, National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, is special. It’s special as a way to renew our passion and commitment toward saving lives from this preventable disease, but also special as we mark the passage of time and see our progress evolve. This year, we are marking the third year of the 80% by 2018 effort.
Looking back, I saw March 2014 as the Year of “The Launch.” I won’t soon forget the incredible array of national leaders gathered despite a snowstorm in Washington, DC to launch the 80% by 2018 effort. We set a goal to have 50 organizations sign the 80% by 2018 pledge, and we celebrated new data showing that fewer people were dying of colorectal cancer in large part thanks to screening.
March 2015 was a year of building and learning. We brought together dozens of stakeholders to tackle important issues. We released new tools to help define the role each of us can play in this life saving effort. We learned that we could save 203,000 lives if we were to reach our goal. And spectacular things began to happen: Niagara Falls turned blue; the Health Care Service Corporation building in Chicago shined with “80% by 2018” in lights; state colorectal cancer roundtables began to form all over the country; and rather than counting our 80% by 2018 pledges by the tens, we started to count them by the hundreds.
And yet, this March, I have the feeling that our real success is just beginning. The White House proclaimed March National Colorectal Cancer Awareness month for the third year in a row. We now have over 700 organizations that have pledged their commitment, but what’s even more exciting are the 80% by 2018 success stories that are starting to trickle in each day.
We’re hearing about coalitions rallying to pool talent and resources to create life-saving change; physician practices that are systematically working to get every patient screened; health plans removing screening barriers for their patients; hospitals becoming anchors in the community to support screening; and community health centers, clinics that serve the most in need in the community, hitting screening rates that rival those in private practice.
And with that I’m very pleased to announce some of the top success stories we received in our first 80% by 2018 National Achievement Awards, a program designed to recognize individuals and organizations who are dedicating their time, talent and expertise to advancing needed initiatives that support the shared goal to regularly screen 80% of adults 50 and over by 2018. We received a rich array of nominations, many more than we could possibly honor. We are grateful to everyone who is doing such important, life-saving work, but please join me in congratulating our 2016 honorees whose accomplishments truly stand out:
- Grand Prize: Coal Country Community Health Centers of North Dakota, whose screening rate jumped from 29% to 70% in three years.
- Phoebe Putney Health System of Albany, Georgia, which became an anchor in their community supporting screening;
- Premier Medical Associates of Pennsylvania, who were relentless in their pursuit to ensure that each and every age appropriate patient got screened;
- South Carolina Public Employee Benefit Authority, which tackled cost issues on behalf of their members; and
- Tina Kiser Cancer Concern Coalition of Ohio, which was so successful in their community efforts to increase screening that the percent of late stage cases in Guernsey County dropped from 60% to 12% over the last 10 years.
We thank these honorees for their diligence, passion and creativity in working toward our shared, life-saving goal. Their efforts are truly inspiring.
You can learn more about them during our annual 80% by 2018 Live Broadcast on March 8th from 2:00-3:00pm EST when we’ll mark the beginning of the third year of the 80% by 2018 effort, profile these success stories and otherwise highlight the progress we’ve made in the past year.
I know we all have a busy month ahead, which will precede a busy year, but I look forward to learning and celebrating and progressing with all of you. Please check out the new resources we’ve posted on our 80% by 2018 webpage, particularly our new 80% by 2018 Resource Packet. It’s a tool to reference throughout the year, and a resource to share with partners who are new to the initiative.
Thank you for your tremendous efforts to reach 80% by 2018, and best wishes for March 2016, The Year of Success.
We are grateful for you and the work that you do.
Mary Doroshenk, MA
American Cancer Society, Inc.